Make a Fixed Time for Study

עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Flying Rockets Fighting Brothers

Posted by rabbiart on November 15, 2012

It’s impossible this week to simply read and study the parshah as usual. Only 11 days ago I was cycling literally alongside the Israel – Egypt border. Two years ago and four years ago I ate breakfast overlooking theGaza strip and then cycled along thatborder.  Next year I’m invited to visit avillage in the heart of the West Bank as theworld calls it. Or as the Torah describes it the land where Avraham Avinu walked settled and ultimately buried his wife. And was himself peaceablyburiedby his two estranged sons; the fathers of two peoples in conflict.

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, commenting on this week’s parshah, points out many ambiguities in a supposedly straightforward story about Jacob is the intended and true inheritor from Avraham and Yitzhak his fathers. (Click here to read article) He observes that a close reading of the text, a knowledge of dikduk, and the trope itself illuminate the different ways the text can be interpreted. He writes”More precisely, we have here an example of one of the most remarkable of all the Torah’s narrative devices – the power of the future to transform our understanding of the past.” 

We live in the present moment by moment but only when we can look back can we understand what we have lived through. Are we in this moment at the beginning of an increased conflict that will take a heavy toll on all sides for some unendurable period of time? Or could we be (please merciful G-d) at the moment when both sides walk to the edge of the cliff and make a permanent change of course.

It is impossible to know.

When Jacob returns from his twenty years with Lavan he prepares for an encounter that will live up to his worst fears about his brother. Instead he is met with an embrace and a kiss. But in the Torah as we have received it there are dots over the word for miss. Scribal error or important clue to indicate the kiss and embrace are not sincere? Is Esau’s offer to accompany Jacob a sincere gesture of brotherly love or a veiled threat of violence yet to come?

Imagine Jacob’s reaction had Esau’s greeting been an angry and threatening. Could Jacob have put aside his fear and greeted his brother with love? It is hard to imagine. Yet this is what Israel is asked to do. A madman in Iran regularly proclaims that Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth. A bordering ‘country’ declares it will never accept Israel’s right to exist. Are Israelis and Jews the world over supposed to react by saying we know you’re just kidding around?

But I also know that if I were Palestinian, or living in the Gaza strip I would have a very different story and point of view.

When all else fails, seek refuge in the occasional wisdom of rock and roll.

There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…and later…there’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everbody’s wrong.

Jacob did his brother wrong but ultimately they reconciled, or so we can choose to read the story. Hopefully, bimherah uvyamenu, we will live to tell a story of warring brothers come to peace. Because as we will soon recite in the Chanukah blessing, HaShem did not only create miracles in those olden days but also in our time as well.

Shabbat Shalom.


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